The African continent is mostly made up of poor and/or developing countries which are highly faced with violent conflicts and wars hindering the overall economic, social, and political development. A continent that lacks economic, social, and political development is a continent that is unable to meet the needs of its people and protect the rights of its people. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the continent leaders work together to prevent and manage conflicts and wars to ensure peace and security. A continent that promotes peace and security is a continent that can prevent violations and strengthen the protection of human rights including in cases of conflict and insecurity. Furthermore, peace and security are interlinked and “it is a condition where individuals, institutions, regions, nations and the world move ahead without any threat. In this condition regions or nations are generally more stable domestically, likely to be democratically governed and respectful to human rights“. The African Union (AU) as the continental union of Africa created Agenda 2063 as a means to ensure inclusive growth and sustainable development for Africa to be achieved in fifty years. Therefore, to keep track of the progress of the framework, the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan was approved in June 2015 in South Africa covering the term from 2014 to 2023. The coming year 2023 will be marking the completion of the first ten years of the framework therefore it is important to track and analyze the performance of the continent in achieving the goals and priorities that were put forward by the framework. This will assist in creating better strategies to ensure that more is achieved in the coming years.
Agenda 2063 framework has seven main aspirations which make up the main priorities of the framework to be achieved in a fifty year timeline. Aspiration four of the framework is peace and security with defined goals and priorities. The aspiration is aimed at ensuring that governance, accountability and transparency are strengthened; ensuring that mechanisms are strengthened to maintain peace and reconciliation at all levels while managing any threats towards the continent’s peace and security; and creating strategies for financing the security needs of the continent. There are three goals under peace and security. These include: preserving of peace, security, and stability; a stable and peaceful Africa; and fully functional and operational African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). The priorities are as follows: maintain and preserve peace and security; institutional structure for AU instruments for peace and security; defense, security and peace; and fully functional and operational APSA pillars. These goals and priorities are used as a basis to measure how Africa is faring in achieving its 2063 plans. To measure the performance means checking and highlighting everything that has been achieved thus far, analyzing the constraints and difficulties that might be hindering the achievement of some goals and therefore providing recommendations on what can be done and how.
One could claim that ten years is a long time, however, taking into consideration the history of African countries and their struggles to obtain independence, it can be understood why some goals are difficult to achieve or take longer to be achieved. Therefore, the progress made thus far should be acknowledged and applauded.
Achievements and Failures
- Peace, security, and stability preserved: this is measured using conflict-related deaths because of ethnicity, exclusion, religion, and political differences. Countries with different religious and political beliefs tend to have conflicts and wars. In 2019, the continent recorded a low score of 24% of conflict-related deaths against the estimated value for 2019 against the 50% score which was recorded in 2013. Such low score may be explained by the absence of data from most countries. The conflict-related deaths due to armed conflicts, disagreements and intolerance along religious and ethnic lines keep on declining, hence maintaining the goal. In 2020, 15 countries were analyzed and only 144 conflict deaths (per 100 000 persons) were recorded against 202 in 2013. There was a decline in the number of conflict-related deaths, however, the 2021 target of 121 and the 2023 target of 101 conflict-related deaths has been exceeded. The strong performance is due to different strategies presented by the AU member states such as inclusive dialogue centered initiatives that focus on preventing and managing conflict, espousing multi-stakeholder efforts of religious leaders, women and youth, and leveraging early warning signs.
- A stable and peaceful Africa: the continental union launched a campaign aimed at “silencing all guns by 2020” which is measured using the number of armed conflicts in the continent. The goal was to ensure that there is zero-armed conflict within and between AU member states. One can attest that this goal was unrealistic and too ambitious as no continent even the ones with developed countries have managed to achieve zero-armed conflict. Due to the high rate of ethnicity, exclusion, and religious and political differences, it is highly difficult to achieve zero-armed conflict in Africa. A score of 45% was recorded which was relatively a weak performance compared to the estimated A score of 57% was recorded in 2020 meaning the continent failed at reaching its 100% target by 2020 and onwards. The target may have not been reached but there are valuable gains such as the culture of peace and tolerance, and thereby leveraging Africa’s diversity to foster harmony and strengthen socio-economic transformation.
- A fully functional and operational APSA: to achieve this goal, the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan set out a target for the AU member states which was to create a National Peace Council by 2016. These councils are expected to be effective platforms used for preventive and mediating measures to avoid and/or resolve conflicts between political parties, ethnic groups, and religious groups. A score of 76% was recorded against the 2019 continental target and this declined to 60% in 2021 due to the increase in the number of countries that reported in the period under review compared to 2019. The decline indicates the importance of fast-tracking the establishing and sustaining of National Peace Councils which will assist in avoiding a scenario whereby these become dysfunctional.
The three goals are interlinked, and one cannot be fully achieved without the others. This is a cycle as the full development of National Peace Councils among all AU member states will lead to the silencing of all guns, which will then lead to decreased number of conflict-related deaths.
Lack of accountability, transparency, commitment, and unity are the main constraints that hinder the achievement of these goals. This is because some countries still do not have National Peace Councils, due to a lack of financial resources, and conflicting religious, ethnic, and political beliefs. The member states fail because they do not have a common ground, every country wants its beliefs to strive over others. The countries are also not transparent when it comes to the number of conflict-related deaths, as already noted in the 2019 score, which is low, due to the lack of data from most countries. In addition, the analysis done by the AU does not include all countries. Indeed, in 2020 only 15 countries out of 55 were analyzed, meaning the data received is not adequate to manage the progress. Furthermore, the silencing of guns is challenged, since financial and human resources to implement the project are lacking and the limited transparency on member states’ programmes for the effective implementation of the theme of the year and the AU master roadmap.
The Way Forward
Therefore, the AU member states need to work on their accountability, transparency, commitment, and unity.
- The first key step is for countries to be united and assist each other with required financial and human resources to ensure that every member state has a National Peace Council. Therefore, instead of trying to achieve all goals at once, this should be the main priority and once this is achieved everything else will fall into place.
- The provision of financial and human resources will also assist with ensuring the silencing of all guns. This priority can be changed to silencing most guns because silencing all is unrealistic.
- Member states should be transparent and provide adequate information regarding conflicts and conflict-related deaths to assist the framework in measuring their progress.
- The member states need to acknowledge and accept each other’s differences and ensure that the difference does not hinder the achievement of goals.
- The member states need to find a common ground and ensure that there is progress for all or no progress at all.
- Member states should deal with the underlying results of fighting for independence and set realistic targets bearing in mind the social, economic, and political differences of all countries.
- The well-equipped countries with enough resources should be at the forefront of working with the countries that lack resources to ensure the achievement of aspirations, goals, and priorities.
- A full analysis should be conducted, using half, if not, all the member states to ensure the adequate tracking of Agenda 2063 progress.
- The countries need to be able to account for plans that have failed and goals that have not been achieved. This will assist in understanding the cause of the failure and hence create suitable solutions.
Busisiwe Thabisa Sibizo
MA candidate, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Johannesburg.